With the late strike that sank 10-man Atalanta 1-0 in Bergamo, Ferland Mendy put Real Madrid within touching distance of the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.

In a last 16, first leg clash in which the hosts had to play a man down for over 70 minutes, the French left-curling back’s effort came four minutes from time, giving Zinedine Zidane’s side the advantage heading into the second leg in Madrid on March 16.

“Tonight we didn’t have a great game, but the most important thing was the result. It was important for us to score away,” Zidane said.

This is a very good result, even at ten, against the Atalanta team, because they defended very well. There’s an open tie. We will have a great one. This is a very good result, even at ten, against the Atalanta team, because they defended very well. There’s an open tie. We’re going to have a big return match here.

Atalanta had attacked early, but when Swiss midfielder Remo Freuler was harshly sent off for tripping Mendy at the edge of the penalty area in the 17th minutes, the game was transformed. The woes of Gian Piero Gasperini continued with forward Duvan Zapata limping off after half an hour with midfielder Mario Pasalic coming off the bench with a muscular problem.

‘The game was ruined,’ Gasperini said.

I don’t know what 11 against 11 would be like. I’ve just been banned from saying something in Series A, and if I say something now, Uefa’s going to ban me. But this is suicide in football. Enough of these referees who have never played a match and have no idea of the difference between a challenge and a foul.

Spanish midfielder Isco, playing alongside Marco Asensio and Vinicius, got a rare start up front for injury-hit Real Madrid.

Owing to an ankle problem with an injury list including Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard, and Dani Carvajal, the 13-time European champions were without striker Karim Benzema.

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